Explore the many issues facing caregivers today. Whether you're an informal caregiver caring for a relative, or a professional caregiver - all caregivers share certain experiences. This section deals with many of the issues facing caregivers today. You'll find information, resources and answers to your caregiving questions.
Who is a caregiver?
A caregiver is anyone who provides assistance to another person so that person can maintain an independent lifestyle. Family members and other informal caregivers are the backbone of Oregon's long-term care system.
For many people, caregiving isn't a job or a duty. It is doing what is right for a loved one. Caregiving is an unspoken promise that so many of us make in our relationships, to be there for our loved ones when they need us. Unfortunately, few people have the time, resources or ability to care for their aging or disabled loved one without any help. It is important as a caregiver to know your limits, take care of yourself, know your resources in the community, and understand the wants and needs of the person needing care.
Being a successful caregiver means finding a balance between providing the necessary care and encouraging the care receiver to be as independent as possible. Discussing the following questions with the person under your care may help you find the balance.
- How does she/he see herself in the role of the care receiver?
- What does she/he need from you?
- What can she/he do for herself?
- Does she/he know what to expect from you?
- Can you meet those expectations?
- What support is available in your family and community?
The caregiver is one of the most important people in the life of the care receiver. A caregiver doesn't have to be family or a loved one. There are numerous types of caregivers. Sometimes the best care plan includes a combination of caregiving types and caregivers.
Types of caregiving
There are two primary forms of caregiving: informal and formal.
Informal caregiving and long distance caregiving. Informal caregivers are usually family members, spouses, adult children and friends who provide unpaid assistance to an aging or disabled person. Most informal caregivers are women who provide assistance ranging from a few hours of shopping and cleaning to intensive 24-hour care. The care receivers are typically an aging parent or a spouse with a disability.
Long distance caregiving places additional burdens on a caregiver. Maybe you don't even consider yourself a caregiver because you live out of town and are away from the care receiver. You are still a caregiver. Do you call your loved one on a regular schedule due to her illness or disability? Do you spend your vacations visiting and helping the care receiver? You are not alone - approximately seven million Americans are involved in providing care for an aging relative or friend who lives at least an hour away.
According to a 1997 survey co-sponsored by The National Council on the Aging and The Pew Charitable Trusts, the caregivers surveyed lived, on average, 300 miles away from their care recipient. Those who were the primary caregivers spent an average of 35 hours per month providing care.
If you are providing care from a distance, you probably have struggled with some of the following challenges:
- Maintaining effective communications with the care receiver
- Managing feelings of guilt or anger over the situation
- Attempting to balance your time with, and away, from the care receiver
- Locating resources in the care receiver's community.
All long distance caregivers face these challenges, and more. If you are feeling guilty or angry over the situation, try to understand why. Write down your feelings and try to find meaning in them. What is it about the situation that makes you feel anger or guilt? Is it something you can control? As a caregiver, the most important thing you can do is take care of yourself first.
Try to find a local support system for the care receiver. Check out what is available in the community and discuss the options. Offer ideas, but do not put a support system in place without the involvement of the care receiver.